tv Dateline NBC NBC January 24, 2016 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
news, utah. brks krrks c nightly news for this sunday. i'm erica hill reporting from new york. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night. we the jury find the defendant guilty. >> actually think that they read the wrong verdict. >> you feel so alone and >> it's like a shot in the chest. >> despair to hope. darkness to light. tonight, a fight for freedom in the shadow of justice. life was cheap that night in new two brutal murders just a half mile apart. >> here for a homicide crime scene. >> six people were convicted. including eric glisson. >> you think the system works and we're going to beat this. we didn't.
through a nun he called grandma. >> would say, grandma, i think this all happening for a reason. >> he'd been behind bars for nearly two decades, lost his last appeal. maybe a nun could help him get into heaven but could she help him get out of prison? what she helped him do was get a lawyer and together they hunted for the truth. >> this is one case that kept me up at night for six years. >> he says, i know you're innocent. i know the guy who is committed this crime. >> tonight, will justice finally arrive? >> this is my wall of hope. everyone here has been unjustly convicted and freed. >> i'm lester holt and this is "dateline." here's josh mankiewicz. >> sing sing correctional facility.
new york. this is the big house. home to some of the worst of the worst. killers, rapists, drug dealers. >> good morning. >> thank you. >> it is not where you'd expect to find this gentle woman. >> in sing sing, they call me grandma. >> grandma is sister joanna khan, a nun. >> i began working at sing sing more than 12 years ago. this is the battle about general. >> grandma volunteers at the prison. working with inmates in a theater program. she even teaches them chinese. through the years, grandma has helped dozens of men. but she says this inmate here on stage, a convicted killer, has changed her. >> he is just so brave. watching him all these years, i took such courage myself
>> sister joanna remembers the first time she met this inmate. he was sitting alone eating. >> he said, my family send me 30 pounds of food. so i said, your family must love you very much. and he said, yes, because they know i'm innocent. and that's how the whole story began. >> a story that began with the unlikely friendship between a nun and a convicted killer would grow into a quest that would shake the faith of ep those sworn to uphold the law. >> i thought the people innocent, god has to see him through. >> so who is this convicted murderer? he issen mate 97-a-7088. 38-year-old eric glisson. we first met him in the spring of 2012 when a "dateline" producer working on a different story in sing sing met eric in the cell.
years. >> you want to see what it's like to live in here? i can touch the walls with my hands. >> eric told us he didn't belong here. >> my story is that i'm unjustly convicted for a crime i didn't commit and from february 3rd of 1995 until the present date i've been sitting in here lingering every day wondering whether this mistake will be corrected. >> we've heard that before. many times. but what if he was telling the truth? so, over time -- >> how are you doing, snan. >> we began visiting eric. >> what's up? you're looking good. >> and listening to his story. >> when i got arrested i was always under the impression people who are guilty actually go to jail. i didn't believe that i would be convicted of a crime that i didn't do. >> when police put the cuffs on him in 1995 eric was 20 years old.
1-week-old baby girl. since then, their only time together has been spent in sing sing's visiting room. >> i have a family who i love. and who love me. my daughter, i need to get home to her and be a father. >> eric often shared his story with sister joanna. over time, she felt compelled to do something, anything for him. so she called the only lawyer she knew. >> the first person i could think of was mr. peter krauss. >> i trust her judgment. >> attorney peter cross agreed to see if there's truth to eric's story but there was still one problem. this is not the law you normally practice. >> no, not at all. i'm a corporate lawyer. i do corporate litigation. i don't do criminal work. >> shar main was his assistant. >> out of the blue one day i get this call. you have a collect call from -- an inmate at sing sing
>> soon she found herself spending hours on the phone with the inmate. >> at first, it was all, you know, business, case, case. by the time you talk to somebody every day, personal things start to slip in. >> friendship. >> friendship. >> in the meantime, her boss was ams of innocence. did you believe at the beginning? >> i'm not going to say i didn't disbelieve.or a listening time. okay? >> and people law. >> they certainly color the truth. this is a man who was convicted of murdering someone.ourse, i approached it with some skepticism. >> once cross learned the facts, he agreed to take eric's case at no charge. man who didn't seem hardened by prison but almost frightened. >> it's terrifying because you lking in the yard and then you could be shanked. that's the life of prison.
two decades.story he was telling us if true was as explosive as it was tragic. ice and the district attorney had all the evidence that they disclosed to solve this crime from the beginning.s eric insisting he was wrongfully convicted, he said others were, too.cked away for life for the same crime. >> five other people, five other people was also convicted of this crime. >> six people.hem actually be innocent? >> time now is approximately 7:15. >> to find out, we'll go back almost two decades and take a k at how it all began. >> is it possible to get something so important, so people? when we come back, we investigate what the police didn't to find out what witness m her window the day of the murder.
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within the walls of sing sing a convicted murderer has convinced a nun and a corporate en a terrible miscarriage of justice. eric glisson is in the 18th yearer sentence. he claims he's innocent. you ever been in prison before this? >> no. live in prison? >> it's hell.ing of a recruiter is under investigation. >> nightmare began on the night of january 18th, 1995.tectives lining this hallway in the bronx
lent. >> she had three pairs of handcuffs on her wrists. >> the victim's name was denise raymond. executive with fed-ex. cops videoed the entire scene and anything that might seem important. >> detectives are mystified over successful executive. >> the case went to detective time ioell.eam of detectives who worked through the night knocking on dorrs and collecting evidence. then as the sun rose the next morning, some of the cops turnedn to another murder, another bloody crime scene. this is the video police recorded of that second murder scene.ly unrelated but just a half mile away in the same precinct. for the murder business in the bronx. >> time now is approximately
driver of bath diop slumped over the steering wheel shot multiple times.an apparent robbery. the driver's money and cell phone were missing. the investigation of the cab driver's murder would be headed detective mike don nolly working alongside detective aiello.nded up putting their heads and their cases together concluding the committed both murders. >> did you know the other people? >> i knew two of them.iends of yours? >> acquaintances. >> february 4th, 1995. s was 19-year-old michael cosme, the first suspect arrested. >> i have one thing to say, though. 't do it. i wasn't there. >> eric was also questioned at the precinct where he adamantly ing about either killing.
something i have not done.g to me? i don't know what's going on. i just want to be with my daughter.place that night, if i knew who did anything, i would tell you. s one more time. >> detectives did not believe him. eric glisson and five others were arrested for both murders.you were charged with both murders, denise raymond murder and cab driver murder. >> yes. >> but by time the time eric prosecutors dropped charges against in the denise raymond case citing lack of evidence. so what evidence was there the cab driver case? really pretty simple. there was a witness against him. es. she told the cops she looked out the window and saw it all.ers smack in the middle of the robbery that ended in murder. is it possible that miriam saw you commit a crime?
>> i wasn't there. >> bad blood between you and miriam? >> yes. bad blood. e had a brief sexual relationship with miriam that didn't end well. >> you have a flung and cut her y feel slighted. >> slighted enough to make you a murder snekt. >> i guess so. >> whatever her motivation, the reliable was she as a witness? all these years later, eric to take another look at miriam's story. attorney peter cross. >> there's no doubt that this woman was lying.the crime scene and she could not possibly have seen what she said occurred.ld miriam really see? here's the problem with miriam's story. from that police video, we know this is where . we also know the shooting happened a couple of car lengths back, sort of where that red suv
called 911 when he heard the shots and he said he saw only one person running away from the scene.ouple of weeks later, miriam comes forward. she lives in that building over there. now you're looking at me from ugh which miriam said she saw all of this happen. this has to be easily 100 yards away. people from the neighborhood commit the crime. she says she heard what they said and she saw what they stole.said she saw all of it looking through this bathroom window. the only problem is, if you go back to where the shooting ned, it's pretty clear miriam couldn't have seen anything at all. >> she said from the bathroom window she heard these co the car. i mean, it's just incredible testimony.d cross even more, detective don nelly never looked at the crime scene from
check out what witnesses say? >> you would think so. e early on in this case and they rode that horse and they weren't going to change direction. >> we wanted to speak with . she died of a drug overdose in 2002. other than her testimony, tlefs nothing, that tied eric or the others to the cab driver's murder.ives don they had and closed both murder cases. within three weeks, they suspects and the bronx district attorney tried in all, six people were convicted.bronx six. five men and a woman. all sent away facing 25 to life.hem was eric glisson. what's it like to hear that verdict read? >> it is like a shot in the chest.t just melts.
you actually think that, you the wrong verdict. that this can't be true. >> the nypd was quite proud of and aiello's work. so proud that five months after the arrests the department be featured in "new york" magazine about how they amazingly cracked the cases. >> how the detectives could havecided to run with this and send them to jail for the rest of their lives on the ba shocks me today. >> all these years later, attorney cross knew his opinion this case wasn't going to free eric glisson or anyone else. >> i think the only kind of evidence that's going to sway a can point to who the real killers are. >> that was quite a lot to hope for., eric glisson was already on the
>> i got some documents and so i guy's name keeps coming up. a surprise visitor and an answered prayer. >> he said, i'm sorry.nt. i know the guys who committed this crime. >> when "dateline" continues. now you can create your own tour of italy starting at $12.99. choose 3 of 10 favorites to enjoy on one plate. plus unlimited salad and breadsticks. taly is the one you create. at olive garden. [ coughing ] [ sneezing ]
been trying to get answers ever since he was locked up. >> i've been fighting these people for years.uments which they deny me at every turn. >> they're not going to convict me for something that i didn't e to accept it. i'm going to fight to the end. i'm a fighter.et, not on my knees. >> as the years passed, eric took college courses offered by the prison. and fought his case. >> how did he get that evidence in his possession? is appeals. >> i don't -- i don't have any appeals left. nothing.ight and then in 2006 he met sister joanna khan in one of the he woman he calls grandma. >> there's particular dark time.grandma, it's really hard. >> i just lost my last appeal.
do. >> i always say let's keep the s go and pray and i said, we have many, many sister praying with you. ered more than just her prayers. that's when she brought in peter cross who was now fighting for ide. >> so you have detective don nelly as the officer assigned. >> yep. >> with eric as his guide, crossd. to have any chance of having another day in court eric knew he'd need powerful evidence, tual innocence. he started thinking. if he and the other five co-defendants had nothing to do urders, then who did? after more than a decade of trying, finally, some of eric's requests for documents in his ling in. >> i came across one document which had my name as well as my and one name
i found out was part of a gang called sex, money, murder. to an important lead. sex, money, murder. seven veteran cops knew those nger and notorious gang from the foundview section of the bronx. october, sex, murder oney, murder became my assignment. >> this was all sex, money, murder territory? >> yeah.heart of it. >> while investigating the gang, an informant told him details of a crime the gang members had committed. >> there was a cab driver who illed in the vicinity of soundview. >> he went to the south bronx to see if there was any truth to the story. walked in the precinct. went up stairs, walked into the detective squad room. t do you know? >> soundview. >> and the response?
>> but the informant insisted n. >> you didn't only make one trip to the 43rd precinct. >> made two.its that description description. >> any reason the police department bouldn't tell you the truth? >> i thought about that. r might be simple. as far as the nypd was concerned, this homicide was closed. >> the detective may have looked only in the open homicide drawer and never bothered to even look e's anything other than an unsolved homicide that fit that description. >> as far as you know, that's d on. >> he soon retired from the nypdle had already been convicted. meantime, eric was stuck in prison. it wasn't until 2012, 14 years paydirt and it came in the form of cell phone records. remember, the cab driver's cell
killed him. undreds of calls after his death. >> the records showed the first call was made from the victim's phone minutes after the shooting. traced back to relatives of two sex, money, murder gang members of jose gilbert vega. eric believed he finally had evidence showing who the real killers were. years to get those through freedom of information. >> they were never provided to the defense? >> no. it turns out that the police andy had all the evidence at their disposal to solve this crime from the beginning. >> so he wrote a letter to the iming his innocence and detailing the information he'd found out about the sex, money, murder gang.mary pass. in an amazing stroke of luck, eric's letter landed on this man's desk.ley, an investigator for the u.s.
days after reading eric's e a personal trip to see eric in sing sing. >> immediately, john o'malley asked me. did you write this letter? i said, yes. he shook my hand and said i'm sorry.t? he says, you know, i know you're innocent. when he said that, i said, what g about, sir? he said, listen. i know the guy that is committed this crime. >> how did o'malley know? he worked with detective e gang case ten years earlier and back then the two gang members, jose and fessed the cab driver shooting to o'malley. >> he said, when i read this letter, everything just came back to me from that day. when these guys confessed to me. >> o'malley didn't want to but told us he also checked with the nypd after
o'malley was told there was no record of the crime. after getting eric's letter in addressed the court in a sworn affidavit stating that eric glisson and the others were innocent of the hooting. armed with that kind of statement, you'd think eric would be literally home free.. coming up, eric glisson isn't giving up.f hope. everyone here has been unjustly >> will his own picture ever be on it? >> tears welled up in my eyes. so since you h you can get our new unlimited data plan. unlimited data? so we're like
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t time in his 18-year struggle to prove that he didn't pull a trigger eric his hands on a smoking gun. an affidavit from a federal investigator saying eric was innocent., do i have an attorney? i told him, yeah. i said, i promise you i'll call this lawyer today. online in a bank. >> peter cross remembers that phone call. >> mr. o'malley tells me, peter,torney's office. we know that innocent is client. that was such an emotional
eyes right in font of the teller. >> i thank god every day for john o'malley.t man's eyes, you know, i see a man who had integrity. i saw a man who was honest. vit was enough for the bronx d.a. to reopen the case. and to get in front of a judge. take time. two more months. but now at least eric had reasonell he assembled a little photo gallery of whoers who have been exonerated. >> this is my wall of hope.eryone here has been unjustly convicted and freed. >> on august 5th, 2012, eric's court. >> this is our first appearance to try to get the judgment vacated. y his assistant shar main chester. by now, they have worked on the case for six years. out.
again. this is it. >> finally, cross argues his dge. >> my client is 17 years plus in a jail. >> it doesn't go down like a . prosecutors do not admit there's been a terrible mistake. >> your honor, we'll be seeking an extension of the time to ns. >> how much of an extension are the people seeking?r, 30 days. >> another month. cross is frustrated. >> he told me they were starting the investigation in june tter. i was able to get my papers ready and it seems to me that the motion. >> you have heard the saying that the wheels of justice grind slowly?nt-row seat. >> we have been trying to put trial. >> is there any point in time
-- >> translation -- this isn't going to end today. eric stays in prison. peter cross heads to sing sing. earlier that morning he'd gotten a call from the d.a.'s office for eric. >> i received a call from the d.a. in the bronx telling me y're ready to make a deal. >> i'm going up now to see eric, to talk to him about the conditions for his release. to visits from his lawyer. >> good to see you. >> and very used to keeping his own hopes -- >> looking good. >> thank you. >> get you -- >> yeah. i was working out running. jogging. >> you know i wouldn't be coming up here -- to make sure this sinks in and so he slowly reveals the details. >> i was very surprised today. look.t a call from ed pullty today saying that we have a
the d.a. is now prepared to givedismissal of the indictment and vacate the conviction. >> today?oday. but it will be by the 13th i think. >> wow.eve that? >> well, it hasn't set in >> the initial shock. >> i know. >> all the fighting we have done over these years. >> yeah. >> um -- i don't know what to say right now. >> but, unfortunately for eric, a month later he's still behind bars. to let me go. they want to continue to hold me and torture me. trauma i'm going through right now because
this agreement. >> as excruciate ing as the hours are, eric shares something with us beyond that wall of hope that's helped him wake up every morning. y the water that each time i go to the barbershop i look at that bench f i'll ever be able to look from down there up here. that's one of my main goals while i was in here, to sit on a free man. >> coming up -- will eric glisson ever get to sit on that bench?ets his day in court. >> we have the decision to take nd exceptional step. >> when "dateline" continues. than verizon, at&t and t-mobile. based on data from the world's foremost authority on independent measurement. , we're still cutting prices in half. switch to sprint and save 50% on most verizon, at&t or t-mobile rates. what about verizon? 50% off. at&t too? 50% off. t-mobile? 50% off.
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like from that bench to the know is what it looks like from the window to the bench. 2012, four months after a federal investigator vouched for eric's innocence his day in court has come.sferred from sing sing and is waiting in a holding cell in the bronx county courthouse. urt officers were advised -- >> it's a long, painful road for lawyer peter cross. at night for six years because i knew we had to med man to get him out of jail. >> eric walks into the courtroom. d 5 on the calendar, eric glisson. >> standing next to him is cathy watkins, the only woman of the bronx six. was tried only for the cab driver's murder and in 1997 they went on trial together.sn't know her
>> when trial started, the up to the court and an officer says this is watkins. i said, cathy watkins? she said, who are you?sson. how are you involved this? she said, i don't know. how are you involved? when's going on?now. we was confused. s later, assistant district attorney nicole quur ri's office believes there may have been a misunderstanding.ffice continues to investigate. >> we have made a decision to take this unprecedented as you know, judge, an exceptional steping to consent the conditional va katding of the conviction for these two defendants and the conditions being that the defendants do se electronic monitoring bracelets. >> all that's left now is for
official vacater of the conviction as to mr. glisson and ms. watkins is granted and each eleased on their own recog any sans. >> eric's friends and family and the news media are waiting for him outside. and now, for the first time in decades, eric glisson is about to take his first steps as a free man. >> eric, what is your emotion right now? >> this is the major points in rked hard. i persevered. and with effort and i'm standing here
>> now, it's his co-defendant also wrongfully convicted. >> 17 years. >> almost 18. >> she was 29 when she went away. now she is 46. >> i didn't do it. 100% innocent. i'm innocent. all the way.2013, the convictions for the rest of the bronx six were overturned. for both the cab driver murder ex executive denise raymond. this is carlos perez, 25 when he was locked up.n wrote -- to 1995. just clinton, bush? i don't know. clinton. the president. nobody listened. >> davon ayers. he was 19 when he was convicted.0s and most of my 30s there and trying to get on with life as i know it as today. cosme.
>> i have one thing to say, though. i'm innocent. i didn't do it. i wasn't there.oday. 18 years later.ieved him. and while we now know those two gang members confessed to the der, fed-ex executive denise raymond's killer or killers have never been brought to justice. someone from the nypd or the bronx district attorney's office but t citing the multiple civil suits they face as the bronx six seek millions in damages against new york city.detectives, don nelly and aiello portrayed as super sleuths in 1995 are now nd didn't have anything to say to us. but in court filings, attorneys for the city of new york deny atened
and point out that several juries heard the witnesses' d believed them. as for eric, it's finally a new one full of amazing discoveries. >> hello? >> no, no. upside down. >>. coming up, no prison bars. no prison guards.n himself. eric glisson's first night of freedom in almost 20 years. and a reunion with a woman who helped him win it. >> oh my god! grandma. ss beth, i hear you calling... but i can't come home right now... are playing... ...
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experiences all of it. >> oh! i seen this in the magazine.t few hours of freedom -- >> hello? >> are part exhilaration. >> hello? >> part discovery. >> hello?never actually used a cell phone. >> yeah. where's cynthia? hello?e down, eric. >> hello. >> no, no, upside down. like this? huh? can you hear me now?rcial? that was my first cell phone call.ne call. >> his first meal? lamb chops.
a coffin and walking. you know?d your last rites. and all of a sudden, a miracle happens. some doctor that just comes knows exactly how to resuscitate you. you're back living again and you're back out in society an ng, you know, will they accept you? yeah. you see?s first night of freedom, eric's lawyer treats him to a hotel room. >> i have a key that's a plasticrd. wow.t. holy -- wow. got to be at least a 46-inch tv.
wow. i used to sleep on a metal frame and now i'm on a comfortable bed. >> but the real joy for eric is reuniting with his daughter cynthia cynthia. >> ready, set go. eek old when he was arrested. now she's nearly 18. >> you cheated. you cheated. >> and that degree he began working on behind bars? eric started taking classes again two days after his and finally, received that long awaited diploma from mercy college.
glisson is a businessman. >> i'm doing everything single handedly. the reconstruction of the ceiling. going to be four tables. nniversary of his release, eric opened a fresh juice business that he mself named fresh take. >> afternoon, sir. how are you doing? >> nice place you have here. >> thanks. >> where did you get fresh take? i had a fresh take on life. i'm free now. i'm no longer the victim. i'm the victor. i won.eem to have come through this remarkably free of bitterness and anger or you're hiding it very well. 't have any animosity against anybody at this point.ple who raised the prices. because the strawberry's the primary thing. >> that's crime. >> yeah, it is a crime. i mean --business partner. someone he met when he was still
>> he's become my brother. in chester. >> i teem annoying older sister. >> they opened their store in late 2013.t. >> pivotal point in my life. taught -- gave me a lot of tools. ad a little surprise for him. he hasn't seen sister joanna khan since he's been released. ric on a quest for freedom all those days ago. >> wectively. oh my god! oh my god! oh my god! grandma. grandma. oh my god. >> god bless you. you.
>> i was.has now been a free man for more than three years. >> it's rough. it's not the walk in to the yone expects. the events that took place in my life that will be with me forever. i can't unshake them.not the only one who's been having a hard time. >> like especially with my daughter, cynthia, our as been strained. still since a lot of resentment of my absence. for a major part of her life. ow, there's a new person for whom eric can be fully present. cynthia has a new sister.let. >> i have a second chance to raise a daughter. to be in her life.her to the park. horsey back rides. you know? all of the kisses.
hand away in marriage.no price for that. >> and what's the price for unjustly spending 18 years in prison?est of the bronx six all filed lawsuits against both the state and city of new ful convictions. the state settled, each of the original defendants was awarded $3.9 million.ainst the city of new york is still pending.hing we wanted to do with eric. remember that bench eric could not too long after his release we took him back there. and watched him finally make good on that promise to himself.